Friday, December 22, 2017

Travelling South Africa 2017

I don't know where to start. It's been a long time since my last writing. First things first ; Please know that you're in our thoughts more often than not. Memories are the gifts around our tree. Thanks for your sharing our lives and we wish blessings upon you. We are healthy and well. Hope the same for you.
This is a long story. Copy and paste it onto your desktop and read it when you have time.
    We've been doing lots of boatwork. The main project was to replace the old batteries and in the process enlarge the batterybank of Mylady to five batteries. The money was major but the real problem was where to put the extra two batteries in our overful boat? I'm happy to report - the project ended well. In the process of making space, Eelco also entered the seemingly timeless defense of the impenetrable lost space below the cockpit bunk and created extra cuboards and enlarged others. And that for us, is the cherry on the cake. Because space = LUXUARY ! Wow...  I shouldn't say it was lost space because it could have served as floating ability. We left Mylady with great satisfaction to start our travels in South Africa.     

Attending the Hantam Meat Feast in Calvinia was a great experience.  For two days the sheep farming community were celebrating the sheep. And in their thousands the people supported the feast. Mutton and lamb were served in any imaginable way - the crowd enjoyed. Queues stood inline for a taste of the 'kliprib' (rock-rib) - also we. The rib grilled between two hot rocks, was better in anticipation than taste. I actually prefer the traditional barbeque way. There were entertainers galore. We loved the Rieldancers best. They were from the Middelpos secondary school in the middle of nowhere with only a handful of pupils. Accompanied by only one guitar and a homemade song of real life in the dry rocky bundus, the kids performed the rieldance with vigor and joy - kicking up dust in puffs till the earthy curtain covered them all.  
Our next experience was Sutherland, -2 degree Celcius. The road to there shook our car apart. Over the first hill to the big telescope, the car would go no further.  The oilfilter holder cracked open. Due to our driving slow and careful, we thankfully had no engine damage. A local young man fixed our car problems and with only one day delay we continued. Stargazing in the karoo is phenomenal. And the big telescope at the observatory absolutely amazing being able to see a five rand coin (or a dollar quater) in detail at a five kilometer distance. The campsites at Jurg's was perfect with wind-breaker-trees and bush, electricity and good facilities. The road from there took us through the harsh beauty of the fascinating Koue Bokkeveld ranges. It's a sad, dry and rocky,
striking beauty.
    We followed the Hex River snowcapped Mountains leading to Cape Town until we turned away direction Montague. The developed valley flushed with colour as the raw turned soil alternate with the orchads of fruittrees that started to bloom. We loved Montague with it's bird sanctuary in the midst of town. The Montague Caravan Park where we camped was a delight.  It has hotwater springs and pools and waterpark and dam with plenty fishing and birds galore. It is very clean, friendly and safe with town in walking distance. The rock formations and colour around Montague is amazing. 
    A year ago we went to the Philidelphia Church bazaar. We enjoyed it so much we attended this year again. It's every year the first Friday of September. The rows of big black pots standing on three legs over a bed of coals (just like you've seen the drawings of the people vanishing in a man-eater's pot with fire around it's bottom), between all the smoke of fires on the side, is a picture to
smile at and remember forever. The cooks with cold drink in arms reach, all compete for the first sell-out (empty pot). Interesting though is that Philidelphia (a hour north of Cape Town), consists of one church and approximately ten houses. Yet drew thousands of people for this once a year event and justified the rows of potjiekos and a church full of delicious traditional goodies. They also make the biggest campfire in Africa. And around this huge circle all the guests passed and warm up.
Our next stop was Paternoster. Thirteen years ago we spent our honeymoon here at the Tietiesbay campsite. The wind blew us almost away. In the morning we woke from the bellowing foghorn, warning everyone of the dangerous rocks around. The lichen covered boulders are strewn along the coastline and into the sea. And in the distance one can always see the colourful fishing dories
of the locals. This time round, we've pitched tent behind a two storey rock. Indulced in the exotic feel of a private small beach covered with whitened, weathered shells and the breaking waves a few meters away. After a lazy lunch we went for a snooze. And woke from the tearing of our tent. No, it wasn't the wind but a burglar. We jumped up and chased after him. With his hands overful he dropped the passport and binoculars underway, but got away with our laptop, camera, wallet and cards, driverslicence, etc. We packed up and went to the police to report it. Two hours in the police station we finally could make a report.The officer in comand did not know where this campground was. We learned fast that we were in the lion's den. In season twelve cases per day are registered, and campers are cleaned out. Murder is a common threat. Nothing further has happened to our case. Welcome to South-Africa.
    We took the car again sometime later and drove over Citrusdal across the mountains to Ceres. We thought being October, the winter is passed and left our 2nd down duvet at home. Well, we froze our buds off. We layered all our clothing across the bed to generate and keep more warmth. The cold snap cleared after a couple of days. We were in beautiful, blossoming cherry country.
From there we drove the old road over Wellington to Paarl. What a beautiful area. In Paarl we went to see and listen to Stef Bos and enjoyed him thoroughly. He's a musician that write and sing ballads from personal experiences. The next morning we drove to Franschoek. A pictureque, historic and now tourist town. We left the huzzle and buzzle behind and enjoyed the beautiful panorama views of the patchwork valley and the steep mountains on either side as we crawled up over the Franschoek pass. Over the hill it was a different view. The mountains more rounded with loose boulders. I spotted a klipspringer standing motionless on a rock. It was lovely to see.
      Down the hills we drove to the TheeWater dam at Villiersdorp. It was sad to see how empty it was. (It is the 3rd dam supplying Cape Town with water.) Strong winds chased up white walls of dust from the dried-up mud and deposited fine sand all over everything. From there we drove over Bonnievale to Montague again. This time over the mountain pass from Ashton side and through the amazing hole in the rock-wall.

    In Swellendam we visited the National Museum. It was very interesting and history became more real. Heidelberg is not far from Swellendam and there we spent a few relaxing days with family. My aunt sent us underway with loads of citrus and veggies from own garden.  Calitzdorp was our next camp at the old railwaystation behind the high cliffs. The three storey high sandstone rock wall was home to an active beehive just above our tent and the nesting site of a pair of spotted eagle owls. They were lovely to see at dusk and to listen to during the night. The countryside was beautiful with interesting red stone natural carved hillsides where the sunlight played colourful mosiac.
We continued to the Cango Caves above Oudtshoorn. It definately is a very impressive piece of creation. Also interesting was how over the years it has become very developed. That night we were welcomed at the lovely Malva cottage in De Rust. It is a place with history where one feel at home. Beautiful humming birds visited on the varandah whilst the garden was a bird-der's delight. And then it was off to the Camdeboo National Park in the vacinity of Graaff Reinet. It's a small park. We liked it. But the mollest making monkeys dancing on our tent trying to get in, were not nice. At Camdeboo we walked to the Valley of Dessolation. The impressive rock formations and erosion were surreally topped with a Black Eagle keeping watch. It majestically took to the air as we approached. 

We zipped down to the Addo Elephant National Park in the vacinity of Port Elizabeth, with tortoise pace. Had to pitch tent in gale forced winds and the dust of the town Addo ends up gritting between the teeth. In Addo Elephant park one see elephants - plenty. Addo Nat.Park is very commercialized and the game not spooky. It is also a confrontation with the solid and high thicket of the african bush where one's vision is limited to the clearing of the road. And it happens often that you see elephants at one or two meter distance because of the bush. After a week we left
for the dryer and open country north to Cradock where we camped in the Mountain Zebra National Park. From all we've experienced yet, that must be the best. It's a medium sized park with a good diversity of game. But the scenery is hard to beat anywhere. The changing landscapes in the different light settings of day and weather is absolutely stunningly beautiful. Every day the same place is different. It's a place we wish to return to. Our week there was not enough. I saw for the first time Grey Rhebuck.
    In Hogsback with its terrible roads we enjoyed the eco-shrine of the the inspired artist Diana Graham. And the chocolate shop had
goooood homemade chocolate. We took the gravelroad north. The area was beautiful. The road sometimes only wide enough for one car. We saw our first crowned cranes. They are so very colourful and pretty. In chaotic busy Queenstown we lost our course for a short while. Got directions from a local street-user and made a u-turn. The road to Dordrecht meander through beautiful landscapes. In Maclear we overnighted and had a super lovely and affordable breakfast at the mug&bean restaurant. Further north we went until we reached Mount Currie campsite near Kokstad. It was great and relaxing. It's a big dam surrounded by grassy hills with game roaming. When we arrived I thought some hilltops had red sandy tops. In the warm light of the morning we discovered the red tops were beautiful red lilies.
The road from Kokstad to Underberg passed miles and miles of swamps. It was beautiful and interesting. There is also a new camp but our VW Jetta was not fit for a sticky, muddy 4x4 track, so we had to look only from the roadside. We camped at Garden Castle on the foot of the southern Drakensberg mountains. FANTASTIC! It must be the gateway to heaven. We were the only camping, but everyday the hikers passed us by the dozens and envied our surreal spot. There were no power yet hot water and a freezer were part of the clean fascilities. Rugged majestic mountains to one side, sometimes dissappearing in the soft mist blanket, to the fifty shades of green on the mellowing foothills and valleys on the other side, covered with the loveliest dainties flowers. I presumed some of it was the famous 'edelweiss' of  the 'Sound of Music' ?? movie.
    Too much rain chased us out of the Drakensberg Mountains. We reversed our track and went westward round Lesotho from the the south. The mountain passes from Elliott to Zastron were absolutely lovely. Rain obscured our view but we could imagine the scope of the panorama we saw. Zastron is a non-tourist town. Nothing is happening there, but it serves a 'genuine' people. The very best sosatie sausage we bought at the Zastron Butcher. And that butcher and friendly staff were serving it seems like a whole city, so busy
they were. From Zastron it was on towards Gariep Dam. A thunder-dust-and-rain storm gave us an equal to see-storm experience. Windgusts would flatten our tent. But our tent being flexable, would just bend as low as being pushed and jump right back up only to be flattened again to right itself again. I stood inside watch to keep everything covered from the wet and had the roof on my head several times while Eelco paraded the outside to check the lines and anchors (tent pens). We survived it well. (The adjacent chalet's roof blew off.)
    We headed back east towards Lesotho and the Drakensberg Mountains. It was a main aim of our trip - to see the Drakensberg Mountains. From Gariep we headed to LadyBrand 15km away
from Maseru, the Lesotho Capital. We rented a log cabin at EinGedi Retreat and had a super good time even though it was freezing cold. Yes, we woke to snow capped mountains. We had good hikes and spotted lots of game. Some would come very close to the cabin. After three days we followed the snowcapped Maloti Mountains to Golden Gate - the northern 'gate' to the Drakensberg Mountains on the eastern border of Lesotho. Golden Gate has beautiful and very colourful, huge sandstone formations. And camp was right underneath one such hillside. Especially at sunset it was a sight to behold. Baboons were a disaster. In Golden Gate Nat Park I saw for the first time Oribi antelope.
On our way to the Drakensberge, we stopped at the Sterkfontein Dam. It has beautiful turquois water similar to that of the mountain lakes in New Zealand. Sterkfontein Dam has the largest dirt wall in southern Africa. Close to the lookout over the dam is the vulture restaurant. And there happened to be fresh carcasses on the hillside. Our last count were about 50 whiteback vultures when we left, but they were still gliding in from heavens know where to join the feast.
   We camped two nights at Monks Cowl in the middle of the Drakensberg Mountains on the east side. And three more nights at the adjacent Dragons Peak Resort. The facilities at Dragons Peak is up to standard and the tree canopy so thick, we almost didn't got a drop of the continuous rains. Whilst sitting out the rains we went to a concert of the Drakensberg Boys Choir. It was a great show. From Dragons Peak we took the back road hugging the Drakensberg ranges which were still snow-capped. It was tarred. Yet it was a pothole disaster to the point that one needs a 4x4 to get through some of the bad spots. We stopped at Giant's Castle Nat Park. The giant and his castle were playing hide and seek in the mist blanket. In fact ; they were not there. From a great distance and at the next town, the castle was visible. Majestic.

Rain and icy temperatures, followed us southward to Glengarry in the vacinity of Kamberg and Heimoor, fortunately the wind was not too strong when it was on duty. A duiker ewe visited our campsite shyly. Very special. We said goodbye to the Drakensberge and camped at the Meiringskloof Nature Reserve at Fouriersburg in the south-east of the FreeState. Birdlife was vacinating. We continued to Secunda where Sasol makes fuel from coal and had a great visit with family there. From there it was on towards Emerentia and had special time with old friends (met on our travels in New Zealand). And we had a super family breakfast in Midrand, Pretoria before we turned around and made a beeline for home on the West Coast. We slept in Vosburg, about midway of our trip, a place of ten houses. It was like walking back into the 60's. We loved it.

Dear MYLADY is as good as always. And she can rock soooooo nicely. We are running around to get visas organized and pack for travelling to the northern hemisphere.
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